"Our sense of wonder grows exponentially; the greater the knowledge, the deeper the mystery."

-- E.O. Wilson

Web scienceontap.blogspot.com

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good Readin'

Utne Magazine lists their top-rated magazines from the last decade:


Statins, Side Effects

Just one anecdotal report (out of many):


Planning For Earth's Future

Russians are making tentative plans to 'deflect' an asteroid, 99942 Apophis (estimated to be 3 times larger than the famous 1908 Tunguska meteorite), headed toward earth on a 20-year timetable. I don't expect to still be around at that point, so not too concerned about it, but for those who are, read all about it:


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Frank Wilczek Interviewed

NY Times interview with Nobel prize laureate (physics) Frank Wilczek of MIT:


Owl Pellets

And now for something totally different --- an owl pellet dissected:


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And This is News???

Weakness reported in FDA approval system for new cardiovascular devices HERE.

The drug approval path has always had such weaknesses, as well. Indeed it would be cost-prohibitive to conduct and await truly strong scientific analyses/screens of products in the medical pipeline. The pressure to opt for speed (and profit) in the process will always overwhelm the emphasis on safety. The solution is not to spend more time on better science, but to better communicate the potential risks and negative outcomes of treatments to consumers, moving toward an improved system of informed consent (medicine ought be consensual, not brow-beaten).

Science's Role

The place of science in society from Rachel Carson, and Chet Raymo:


Quantum Mechanics Redux

Latest book from science writer Jeremy Bernstein, "Quantum Leaps," on quantum mechanics for the lay reader, here:



The LHC -- What Good Is It

The latest from David Overbye (NY Times), explaining why the Large Hadron Collider is important:


Monday, December 28, 2009

10 Posts From 2009

Bloggers often do year-end lists of favorite posts from the previous 12 months, so without further ado, 10  S.O.T. posts I especially enjoyed from 2009 (most are either book reviews or videos):

1. "The Inner Feynman"
2.  "Martin Gardner"
3. "Alex, Wesley, and Love"
4. "Wingsuit Flying"
5. "The Canon and Scientific Literacy
6. "Embracing the Wide Sky
7. "Amazing Sea Creatures
8.  "Dawkins On Display"
9. "Believe It Or Not"
10. "Huhhh?"

Underpinnings of Science

Good piece on the nature of experiments, anomalies, and belief from Jonah Lehrer in Wired Magazine here:


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Digital Technology and the Future

 "The internet devalues everything it touches" :

A view of where digitalization is leading...

Speaking of Benzene...

Incredibly, a molecular transistor has finally been achieved, involving benzene:


Kekule's Snake

Friedrich August Kekule's benzene ring... brought to life:


(check out the rest of the photos here as well, by clicking directly on each pic to load the next one!)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

No Backup Plan?

If the Large Hadron Collider DOESN'T find the Higgs Boson, physics will go back to the drawing board:


"a hundred years of scientific theory" and "the Standard Model" will be "undermined" if the LHC fails to confirm the Higgs, resulting in bitterness and infighting among the physics community, according to former Harvard professor Shahriar Afshar.

Just For Fun

Back-to-back videos this week:

(hat tip: Blog Around the Clock)

Friday, December 25, 2009

California Condor

 Friday video... the California Condor Comeback:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

More Year-end Best Book Lists

The best science books of 2009 as picked by...

Physics.com :


The Washington Post :


and Amazon.com :


New Math Book

New math book, "The Princeton Companion to Mathematics," reviewed very favorably here:


"Rain Man" Dead

Before there was savant Daniel Tammet, there was Kim Peek, "Rain Man." Now dead at 58.:


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Powers of 10

Jennifer Ouellette's latest on the cosmos here:

Godel, Escher, Bach

A video introduction to Douglas Hofstadter's classic "Godel, Escher, Bach" begins here:


Physics Wannabes Take Note

Finally a physics book for the rest of us:


....arf, arff

Clinical Trials... Issues/Concerns

Review below of 3 recent books addressing ethical and empirical aspects of clinical research on humans:


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Secret Life of Plants

Vegans still hold the ethical high-ground, but the always-interesting Natalie Angier reports on the 'sensitivities' of plants here:

Epigenetics, DNA Methylation, Lupus, and Twins

Accounting for lupus in one of a pair of identical twins via epigenetics:


Top 10 Science Books from Amazon

Amazon.com lists their Top 10 science books for 2009 here (nice mix of choices):


Cool Illusion

An illusion of (color) perception:


(for 30 seconds of dot-staring, cursor must be off the picture, then move on to picture)

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Golden Ratio

Human affinity for the 'Golden Ratio' of mathematics now explained by an engineer in terms of unification of "vision, thought and movement under a single law of nature's design":


Dawkins' Life and Times

Long autobiographical piece, "Growing Up In Ethology," by Richard Dawkins here:


Deep Paradox

The paradox of prolific lifeforms but little food at the bottom of the seas discussed here:


A quote from one researcher, just to peak your interest ;-) :

“It’s a constant snow of detritus at the bottom,” McClain said, “And most of it has passed through the rectum of at least two different organisms as it traveled down the water column. What arrives to the seafloor is a mixture of carbon, inorganic carbon, and other ’stuff’.  The carbon material passes through a lot of guts which both reduces the quantity and quality of the material.”

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Genomics and Nanoscience

DNA sequencing sped up using nanotechnology:


Ecological Developmental Biology

Review of "Ecological Developmental Biology: Integrating Epigenetics, Medicine, and Evolution" by Scott F. Gilbert and David Epel, here :


Friday, December 18, 2009

The Intelligence of Crows

Friday video: a popular TED talk on the high intelligence of crows, and how we can use it:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Opportunities In 'Citizen Science'

 You don't have to be an expert:


Burial, Cremation, or ....

 Learned another new word this week: "resomation"




Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Random Subject Samples, Not So Random

Article points out that subject samples in most behavioral and social science research studies are not truly randomly chosen as would ideally be called for. What isn't mentioned is that subject samples in biological and medical studies (which also generalize results to entire populations) are also not random, and thusly flawed (indeed, the entire notion of "randomness" is almost undefinable, even in math, let alone in other sciences):


Tuesday, December 15, 2009


In the following sentence, the number of occurrences of 0 is 1, of 1 is 7, of 2 is 4, of 3 is 1, of 4 is 1, of 5 is 1,of 6 is 1, of 7 is 1, of 8 is 2, and of 9 is 1.

In the prior sentence, the number of occurrences of 0 is 1, of 1 is 8, of 2 is 2, of 3 is 1, of 4 is 2, of 5 is 1,of 6 is 1, of 7 is 2, of 8 is 1, and of 9 is 1.

Quality In Genomic Sequencing

As newer sequencing technologies allow for "quick and dirty draft genomes," article HERE raises concerns about the quality of genomic sequencing and recommends standards for future reporting.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Intro to "Chaos" and More

From SEED Magazine, "Chaos" theory as applied to the quantum level:


Junk DNA Revisited

A new look at introns, at least within the Daphnia pulex (water flea) here:


Whether the findings can be extended to other species, including humans, is being further investigated.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Toxin Exposure

Hooray, I'm over 50....

Mercury and other chemicals in us:


The LHC Proceeds

Old news (...well, 4-day old news anyway), but the NY Times' Dennis Overbye reports on the new record finally set by CERN's Large Hadron Collider here (much more to come):


Still, the success is limited, as Overbye notes:
"Testing revealed that the collider is riddled with thousands of defective electrical joints and dozens of underperforming magnets that will keep it from reaching its full potential until an overhaul scheduled for 2011. When it starts doing real physics after the holidays, the collider will be running at half power."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sky Gazing

Look, see....

The Geminid Meteor Shower peaks this Sunday night in North America:


Friday, December 11, 2009

Predator and Prey

Friday video: Young ibex eludes a fox and certain death:


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Information Consumption

How much data do you gobble up each day? Some folks are trying to measure it:


(p.s. I learned a new word today: "zettabyte") 

Putting Bioinformatics In It's Place

Interesting take on what bioinformatics is... and isn't here:


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An Oxymoron Perhaps

 A new "giant virus" (large enough to be seen through a conventional light microscope) has been discovered by French scientists. It is the fifth largest virus thus far found, and a "completely new viral form" at that:


Technology and the Life Sciences

Top 10 innovations in the life sciences in 2009 reported by The Scientist Magazine:


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cosmos Courtesy of Hubble

Deep space elicits deep thoughts.....

More wonder from Hubble here:


A Wild Rumor... or Not

Has dark matter been discovered...? :


(I'm guessin' not, but we'll know more come December 18th.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

A 2009 Best Books List

An eclectic list of the "best" science-related books from 2009 as picked by SEED Magazine:


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Music - Speech Linked

Research finding underlying link between human speech and music reported here:


Friday, December 4, 2009

Spiders On Drugs

Friday video:

This piece of science/humor has been circling the Web for quite awhile but still worth a gander, and based on some actual research:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Of Nematodes and Men

Chet Raymo amuses again:


Plants as Air Purifiers

Household plants that remove pollutants from indoor air here:


The Science of Reading

Jonah Lehrer reviews Stanislas Dehaene's fascinating new book "Reading In the Brain," on how the human brain pulls off the amazing (yet routine) practice of rapidly and systematically acquiring meaning from squiggles on pages.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Feynman Recommended...

"...He is by all odds the most brilliant young physicist here, and everyone knows this..."

An old letter, recently disclosed, from the late Robert Oppenheimer highly recommending a young Richard Feynman for a position in the physics dept. of UC Berkeley back in 1943 (Feynman opted to go elsewhere):


A Classic

 Classic Eugene Wigner paper here on the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics":


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Consciousness Cont'd.

And much much more about consciousness, compiled by David Chalmers here:


New Ideas On Consciousness

Consciousness and the brain, from John Brockman's "Edge" site: